Jewelry has been used to mark milestones in a woman’s life for centuries, with different cultures following different traditions. In India, for example, baby girls are showered with gold jewelry from the day they are born; Jewish girls often receive jewelry as a bat mitzvah gift; and in America, jewelry and watches are given for 16th, 18th and 21st birthdays and graduations, with ‘key’ necklaces representing the tradition that, when a girl came of age, she’d be given the keys to her household.
“Traditionally, women waited to be gifted jewelry, and it would mark a special occasion,” says jewelry consultant and stylist Beanie Major. Engagement and wedding rings symbolize everlasting love, and jewels are used to mark milestone wedding anniversaries: silver for 25 years, gold for 50 – a tradition that dates back to the Roman Empire – and ruby, sapphire and diamond for 40th, 45th and 60th anniversaries respectively.
For generations of women who didn’t have the spending power to buy their own pieces, jewelry boxes were populated entirely by gifts, each one imbued with the memories and emotions of a specific moment in her life. Nowadays, women needn’t wait to be bestowed with pieces they desire; in fact ‘self-gifting’ is one of the biggest trends we’ve seen emerging over the past few years. Invariably, though, our most treasured jewels aren’t necessarily the most expensive, but the ones that are the most meaningful.
“Jewelry instantly reminds the wearer of a precious moment in time – one they carry with them for the rest of their life,” continues Major. “When the piece is passed on, the story is, too.”
Provided it’s looked after properly, fine jewelry will last a lifetime and can be handed down to the next generation. It doesn’t tarnish or wear out, it’s difficult to outgrow, and it retains inherent value. And jewelry is undeniably more intimate than any other gift.
“Jewelry is often worn every day, in direct contact with the skin. Necklaces hang close to the heart, and engagement rings are traditionally worn on the third finger of the left hand because Ancient Egyptians believed a vein ran from that finger directly to the heart,” says Major. “For a lot of people, jewelry becomes like a second skin.” There’s a reason most women are loath to wear jewels gifted by an ex.
Fine jewelry will last a lifetime and can be handed down to the next generation… And jewelry is undeniably more intimate than any other gift”
Nowadays, jewelry gifts aren’t restricted to romantic or familial relationships: they are given at bachelorette parties and baby showers, to mark births – a ‘push present’ – or promotions. Brides give their bridesmaids jewelry to remember their big day; groups of girlfriends club together to buy 30th-birthday gifts, and ‘good luck in your new job’ trinkets forever remind the recipient of that turning point in life.
Fine watches, too, make for everlasting gifts. No women’s collection is complete without a classic Cartier – a Tank or Ballon Bleu – so they are perfect for landmark birthdays. If celebrating a career milestone, consider a timeless timepiece she’ll wear every day, such as IWC Schaffhausen’s Portofino, while a special occasion such as a wedding or significant anniversary calls for something equally exceptional: Piaget’s diamond-dusted Limelight Gala should do the trick.
Many jewelry brands, including Cartier, Buccellati and Piaget, have developed ‘entry-level’ collections designed for gifting. Messika’s My First Diamond necklace marks the start of a young woman’s fine jewelry collection.
Personalized pieces make particularly good gifts – whether adorned with the recipient’s star sign, birthstone or initial. Jewelry that contains a message or symbol – such as Marlo Laz’s ‘Porte Bonheur’ (‘lucky charm’) earrings – is doubly meaningful. With its reversible design, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s iconic Reverso watch is ripe for personalization: the solid-gold caseback can be engraved with initials, a date or a special message so she can flip the dial and read it any time.
Practically speaking, necklaces, earrings and bangles are easiest to gift, as there’s no need to worry about finding the right size. “Our Fireworks bangles are our bestsellers for gifting,” says American jeweler Suzanne Kalan. “They can be added to over the years, and they look great worn singly or stacked.”
Jennifer Meyer’s set of two 18ct-gold heart necklaces, inspired by old-school friendship necklaces, is an ideal gift to send a loved one from afar. The recipient wears one half of the heart and the giver the other, the idea being that one day the two will be reunited. In an era when friends and family are separated all over the world, the permanence of jewelry serves as a reminder that this too shall pass.